The Appreciation of Andre Agassi

In Sports by Brock Bourgase

On Monday, Andre Agassi won under the lights at the U.S. Open. In 1990 a different Andre Agassi lost to Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open Finals. Once Agassi was seen as a gifted under-achiever; now he’s admired as the epitomy of a professional athlete. Substance replaced style and successes replaced failures on the biggest stages as Agassi won the career Grand Slam.

Agassi’s career path mirrors the development of many student-athletes as they progress through High School. Often the game is more mental than physical, work ethic can trump raw talent, and consistency is critical. Agassi still possesses tremendous groundstrokes but now he controls points more from the baseline. He used to skip the Australian Open early in his career, later he won the tournament thrice in four years because he was in the best shape on tour.

Likewise, student-athletes frequently join the Junior Varsity team with great expectations and an attitude that surpasses their ability. Reaching one’s potential takes self-discipline that one acquires over the years. As Grade 9s or Grade 10s, they have yet to learn the tricks of the trade.

They may not know how to train or how to practice. But like Agassi, anyone can change.
Agassi didn’t care in the past: it was more important to practice barefoot at Wimbledon with Brooke Shields than win the Championships. Image was everything — now winning is paramount. Could’ves (Andres Gomez/French Open/1990), Would’ves (Pete Sampras/U.S. Open/1990), Should’ves (Jim Courier/French Open/1991) gradually became Been Theres (Andrei Medvedev/French Open/1999) and Done Thats (Todd Martin/U.S. Open/1999). The same opportunity to improve exists for all athletes, irrespective of their particular situation.

Out-working opponents during the off-season, pre-playing the game in advance, and giving one’s best every day; skills that are not difficult to duplicate but difficult to learn. It took Andre Agassi almost ten years as a pro to add them to his immense skill. It takes others longer. Yet when prodigies become mature they become winners.

On Monday, Andre Agassi won once more under the lights at the U.S. Open. Bad back, down a set, and approaching retirement he persevered and won his first round match. On Thursday, Agassi will play Marcos Bagdatis, who will offer a stark contrast in style. Serve and volley vs. service returns, youth vs. experience. One more chance for Andre to apply the lessons he learnt over time and demonstrate his skill.